Chapter 12

    The past couple of months had been an emotional rollercoaster for Michael and Leila. Even though they were spending a lot of time together, confiding in each other, and making love to one another; It wasn't enough for Michael. 

    As much as he hoped Leila would leave her abusive marriage, he also knew that Leila wouldn't just up and leave her husband. Like most abused women, she feared leaving and tried to rationalize her reasons for staying.

    After their argument on the subject over a month ago, Leila refused to entertain any discussion of her leaving Calvin. Fearing that Leila might stop talking to him altogether, Michael kept quiet on the topic and prayed for the best. 

     

***

    "Good morning, sweetheart," he cooed sweetly in her ear. 

    "Good morning Mr. Jackson." Leila yawned. 

    "I got you something."

     Leila rolled over. "I'm sure it's beautiful, baby, but can you please let me sleep? Just five more minutes, OK?"

    "Come on, Leila; I want you to see this." He pressed on. 

    "But baby... Didn't we do it enough last night? Let me recover first." She giggled as she felt a few small licks on her ear. 

    Trying to suppress his laughter, Michael covered his mouth with one hand. 

    [Pat Pat Pat] 

   "Alright, Michael! I'm up! I'm up!" She yelled irritatedly, sitting up straight. 

    When Leila opened her eyes, she saw Michael standing in front of her with the most adorable puppy she'd ever seen. 

    "You bought a puppy?" She squealed excitedly. 

    "Correction, I bought YOU a puppy!" He smirked. 

    Placing the puppy in her arms, he kissed her forehead sweetly. He knew she liked dogs, especially small ones. When he saw an adorable "Bichon Frise" at a local animal shelter he visited the day before, he had to adopt him for her. 

    "Oh, Thank-you, Baby! But wait-- I can't take him home." She frowned. 

    Michael sighed. "Just tell Calvin the puppy is a gift from a friend... A female friend." He emphasized. 

    "That might not work-- I don't need him bothering Zina and Coco. I'll think of something... There is no way I can turn down this handsome guy." She singsonged while stroking the puppies' fur. 

    Feeling relieved that Leila accepted his gift made his heart soar. He only wanted to make her happy and hoped the puppy would provide some sunshine in her everyday life. 

    Wrapping his arms around her, he nuzzled his nose in her hair. "Have you named him yet?"

    "Hmm... I was thinking of naming him 'Curly.'

    "As in from the Three Stooges?" Michael smiled. 

    When the puppy started spinning on the bed, she giggled. "How adorable! Remember when curly would do that on the TV show?"

    "Yeah, that always made me laugh non-stop." He spoke quietly. 

    Changing topics, Michael's mood became somber. He was due to travel out of the country at the end of the week but wished Leila could join him. He loved being with her and didn't feel so lonely anymore. 

    During the last couple of weeks, Michael had barely touched any alcohol at all. He was the happiest he'd been in quite a while, but there were many times unbeknownst to Leila where he became frustrated. Simply put, he wanted Leila to come to her senses and leave Calvin.

    Noticing that Michael had become extremely quiet, Leila touched his cheek lightly. "Is everything OK?"

    Michael frowned. "Um, yes, and no... I have to attend some business in South Korea and Germany for a few weeks. I'm putting together a few benefit shows to raise funds for children in Kosovo and Africa. While there, I'll be checking out concert venues and attending various meetings."

    Turning to face him, Leila held 'Curly' up to his cheek. When the puppy began showering Michael with sloppy dog kisses, he groaned sourly. "Leila... Really?"

    Leila laughed heartily. "Sorry, but you looked like you needed some love."

    "Don't make fun of me, Leila-- I'm gonna miss seeing you." He spoke sadly. 

    "I'm gonna miss you too, baby, but what you're doing is great."

    Reaching into his night-stand, he produced a pair of keys. "Please-- take these. I want you to come here whenever you like." 

   Feeling hesitant, Leila took the keys from him. She knew Michael meant well, but she didn't feel comfortable with inviting herself into his home without him being there. 

    "I know what you're thinking, Leila, and it's completely fine. I trust you and want you to have a place to relax. I usually don't like people visiting me out of the blue, but for you, that doesn't apply." 

   As her chest tightened with emotion, she simply nodded and said, "OK."

    "By the way, my family reunion is coming up in a few months or so, and I was wondering if you could be my date?"

   "For a family reunion?" Leila looked at him sideways. 

    "You're making fun of me again." He replied bitterly. 

   "No, sweetie! I swear, I'm not. It's just that I've never heard of being asked out on a date to a family reunion... that's all." 

    Michael snickered. "Well, there's a first time for everything. Soooo, will you be my date?"

    Extending her hands outwards in an exaggerated manner, Leila shouted. "Yes, Michael-- I'll be your date."

    Gently pushing her onto the bed, he hovered over her. "Oh! So you have jokes, I see."

    "Mmm-hmm-- I do. And what are you gonna do about it, Mr. Jackson?" She replied saucily. 

    After whispering something naughty into her ear, Leila remarked. "I'm ready when you are baby-- don't hold back."

    As he lowered himself between her thighs, he raised his perfectly arched eyebrows and smirked. "Do I ever?"


***

    "I'm pulling an all-nighter in the studio tonight. If anyone calls me on the house phone, please take a message." Calvin spoke briskly while sipping a cup of coffee. 

    "Got it. What's the new project if you don't mind telling me?" Leila asked inquisitively. 

    Sitting down with his cup of brew, he leaned back in his chair. "Sorry, but I can't tell you. It's a top-secret project for a major recording artist! He's trying to keep everything a secret and doesn't want the public to know about it just yet." 

    On occasion, there were times when Calvin was cordial with Leila, but those moments were too far and few in-between. Usually, he just barked orders at her, treated her coldly, and dismissed her feelings. 

    But the one thing he seemed to enjoy speaking with her about was music. When Calvin and Leila first met, he spotted her under a tree playing an acoustic guitar.    

    Leila was a gifted guitarist and was just starting her career as a session musician, but what she wanted to be was a veterinarian. Since the pay was quick and easy, she had taken up a few major session gigs to help her pay for veterinary school.

    In the beginning stages of their relationship, Calvin was very sweet and charming, but there were a few instances where he became a raging maniac. Calvin couldn't stand it when other men looked at Leila. It bothered him so much that he even punched a few guys for simply saying 'hello' to her. 

   After they were married, Calvin convinced her to stop working as a session musician and promised to pay the rest of her tuition for veterinary school. He had produced two major selling albums, and the money was rolling in. 

    The plan was for Leila to resume her studies after their wedding, but that never happened. He had convinced her to drop out because he felt as though he made enough money for the both of them. 

    When Leila tried to tell him that it wasn't about the money, he would become very angry with her. Not wanting to upset him, Leila stopped bringing the subject up and settled into the role of being the obedient housewife.

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